By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– If anything last season’s Salem Academy Girls Basketball team was like an unstoppable force like Dayton was, that’s why we saw probably the 3A Girls Basketball equivalent of the 1980’s version of the Lakers versus Celtics every time they played during the 2017-2018 season.
The question of who was LA and who was Boston could be debatable but fast forward nine months and like the team to the North, the Salem-based Crusaders will be looking to a few new headliners to guide them this season with the first game a few days away.
That Senior Class for Salem Academy that sent a handful of girls to play collegiately for basketball while others ventured in different sporting domains, certainly left a sizable hole for their younger counterparts to fill this season.
“A lot of these girls (this year) have been playing behind them for two-, three-years so they’ve learned what to do and what not to do. Good work ethic, how to play as a team and how to work hard together,” said Head Coach Ben Brown. “How to lift each other up, so that’s showing this year with our Senior Leadership.”
They got a strong freshman class in that has Aimee Smith’s younger sister Aubrey as the younger Smith was getting reps in with the Varsity Monday afternoon during practice. A strong Junior class that features Chole Baker and Kayla Bauldree, Baker a post player with some height and Bauldree a quick, good shooting guard who were swinging between JV and Varsity last season.
Senior-wise is where some familiar names are coming back from last seasons second-place finish with Grace Brown, Brown taking more of a vocal role this season from her older sister Sydney as she demonstrated during practice a little bit Monday. Kirsten Koehnke, who’s has a full year in the SA system after transferring from Regis before last season.
Chole Campbell and Jamie Vanderstoel return as well as Vanderstoel adds another girl at six-foot to the roster at six-two to go with Baker’s six-foot frame with this season’s Senior Class taking the turn to lead the team as the Seniors before them had.
“We definitely lost a lot of great talent along with really good friends…but for sure I’ve played with them since my freshman year so I looked up to them all these years. So I’m definitely going to take what they did and bring it to my Senior Season,” said Campbell.
The Lady Crusaders start the season Wednesday versus Sweet Home at home before traveling to Coos Bay to play the defending 4A State Champions in Marshfield before facing playoff teams in Creswell, Warrenton, Santiam Christian. They play in three tournaments this season before entering probably the best league in 3A with the new-look PacWest Conference as any given night, you’ll get a playoff caliber team or a team scrapping for an At-Large bid.
And each game starting with Wednesday’s gives Salem Academy to get better and improve leading into league and perhaps another deep playoff run that this program has grown accustomed to through the past few seasons.
“Just going into every game focusing and working really hard. Focusing on the little things for sure, not just winning the game but improving our defense, getting more rebounds. Stuff like that,” said Koehnke.
Tip-off Wednesday against the Huskies is at 6pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald